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Returning to the trees

// Author: James // 3 Comments

We’re back out in the woods!  It was just a matter of making the time. There’s something about climbing /bouldering culture that I’ve always liked. It’s an unexpected mix of people, things, and lifestyles. The climbers I’ve  met tend to be fairly inquisitive people; they like the “problem.” In bouldering parlance a problem is a series of moves you have to make to climb a rock. There is an echo of martial arts “kata” – the sequence of moves you work through to find both a spiritual perfection and kick ass. But, for me the appeal is a lot simpler – climbers have almost uniformly been welcoming and fun.


There is something about the ephemera that they bring to the woods I find fascinating. They all tend to wear climbing shoes but from there they diverge. Some are obviously health nuts and chow down on food that looks like it was frozen in time from millennia past. Others have coffee from Dunkin Donuts, a sandwich of vague nutritional value, and some B12 drink which I’ve never tried. Also, this is the first time I’ve ever seen Doraemon out in the wild (blue cat with magical pouch).


So, I’m slowly adding to our collection of climber portraits. I don’t think I shot any in Japan but I could be wrong. I’ll have to get around to working on those photos.



Pictured here is Chris Motta; a fine art photographer and great friend who has widened my understanding of photography as an art form. I do sort of love that climbers suddenly become Matthew McConaughey (“you know this scene would be better with my shirt off”) in good weather. Truthfully, I think it makes for better photos but it doesn’t mean I won’t tease them (and no he isn’t posing for the camera – he just falls into poses like this).


I’m not sure when the bugs are going to come out but it’s got to be soon. But, if the weather holds I’m going to have to get outside more. I tend to step out on the weekends but maybe there will be some weekday afternoon in my future. I’m going to start getting more focused on the portrait part of the project as time goes on.


I’m guessing Danny is a fan of Douglas Adams. Or at least that’s what I choose to believe because I’m not in-the-know for other cultural references to “Don’t Panic.” It’s probably just good advice for a climber.




Conversations range from talk about injuries, term papers, Sean Robar (local climber whose name I heard more in two days than I have heard in years), babies / fatherhood and what that means to climbing, food, lots of people who aren’t present, and general dismay at the state of any given piece of rock.


This person pictured below is obviously a person of great taste and refinement because she wanted her picture taken with me (not pictured ’cause it was on her phone). Which was a first. Perhaps she was just setting me up and really just wanted a good mugshot to forward to the Staties because she thought I looked shifty. Oh, and the guy getting proded / tickled / massaged above is also a man of great distinction as I learned in the course of conversation that he bought my photo book back in the day. Although it looks like pain, he’s about to wiggle and complain about how ticklish this back injury massage is.



I just liked the folding insulated pad with the backpack. Ready for anything.


Someone put some climber art over the 401 boyz graffiti. Maybe they became climbers and decided it was time for an update. I have images of gangs carrying ropes and gear walking down the street snapping their fingers threateningly.



The horse people (the owners of a horse riding concession in the woods) were very cordial. There is a lot of bad blood between the climbers and the horse people. Both see the other as being somewhat unreasonable (climbers startle horses and I’ve heard that the horse people can be unfriendly to the climbers). At some level it is simply biological because I gather the climbers walking with pads on their backs scare the hell out of the horses.



Look at all those people. I sort of wanted to get the sleepy ones on the left more but they gave me the hairy-eyeball which I understand.


Since I haven’t really been out a lot in the past few years I was sort of impressed to see that styles really have changed some.  The most obvious being the 1980s party-boy  sunglasses. They really are back.

So, it begins anew. In 50 years I’m not sure what will stick out the most as different. Maybe people will start wearing helmets and these will be relics of the bad old days before people knew what they were doing. No idea, but it’s fun to capture.




  1. Danny - April 22, 2015 8:12 pm

    You guessed right with the Douglas Adams reference!

    • james - April 22, 2015 4:44 pm

      Nice. Big thumbs up.

  2. Anne - April 24, 2015 9:59 am

    Beautiful, James. Your words and photos capture the essence of our bouldering scene perfectly.


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